Commentary

Beacon Messaging and Moving Beyond Battery Life

Beaconing is maturing.

From the consumer’s side, there still is the obvious issue of having Bluetooth turned on so that an app can be triggered by a nearby beacon.

And then there’s the issue of having an appropriate app programmed for a particular beacon.

And lastly, there’s the issue of who actually agrees to accept messaging, such as while shopping in a large department store.

None of this is stopping the spread of beacons. For example, Yelp is ordering 4,000 beacons that can be used for location-based messaging in stores or restaurants found via Yelp.

And merchants using beacons are finding that with the right incentives and value provided, a number of consumers will accept the messaging and that engagement rates can be quite high.

On the other side of beaconing are other merchant issues, with one of the challenges being details around the actual beacon.

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Since most beacons are battery-operated, the idea of a retailer installing thousands of beacons and then having to change batteries a short time later can create a major roadblock.

A while back, beacon-maker Gimbal came out with a beacon with four batteries, which Gimbal told me can last for 18 months.

Now Boston-based Swirl Networks has upped the ante, introducing a new beacon with a battery life of six years.

Without getting into the details of how the sausage is made, the new beacon runs on a new chip that uses less power and a real-time clock that lets a retailer power down the beacon when a store is closed.

Although Swirl has never really been a beacon company, it has had enough dealing with large retailers to see the need to frequently change beacon batteries as a looming stumbling block for mass deployments.

I recently met with Hilmi Ozguc, founder and CEO of Swirl, and Rob Murphy, vice president of marketing, at the company’s new headquarters building and they told me they wanted to move their beaconing to the next generation of technology.

The company is backed by investments from Twitter, Simon, Hearst and Softbank , including $18 million in the latest round of financing, for a total of $32 million to date.

Swirl also recently received a patent for using beacons to trigger the delivery of targeted content to a mobile device based on a user’s location, as I wrote about here earlier this month (Swirl Gets Patent for Location-Based Targeted Marketing with Beacons).

While no one knows what the precise state of beaconing will be in six years, the beacons installation checklist is one item shorter.

Marketers, brands and retailers now can focus more on the messaging and less on the beacon itself.

With the entire multitude of issues around connected objects in the Internet of Things, at least changing beacon batteries won’t be among them.

3 comments about "Beacon Messaging and Moving Beyond Battery Life".
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  1. Ted Fagenson from Skrownge, September 30, 2015 at 5:01 p.m.

    The ubiquity of beacons is a given, the major question should really be what is the right engagement model for consumers to want to activate and participate with retailers and brands. Present solutions are quite limited and do not offer any excitement.  Fundamentally, it's the application that will drive continual use. 

  2. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, September 30, 2015 at 5:08 p.m.

    Agree with all of that Ted. Beaconing is a work in progress,

  3. Devika Girish from MobStac, October 4, 2015 at 11:46 p.m.

    Very informative read. With the recent rise in the demand for contextually relevant  experiences more and more businesses have been looking to adopt beacons to trigger their customers with the right offer at the right time. However, inspite of all the hype around beacons, many marketers even today do not know what all can beacons be put to use. For example one of the commonly tossed questions by our customers is, what is the difference between geofencing and beacons, particularly because both actually try to achieve a similar goal – identify a user’s proximity to a particular location and trigger an action accordingly. We have discussed the basic differences between geofencing and beacons here: http://blog.beaconstac.com/2015/09/beacons-vs-geofencing-which-location-aware-technology-should-your-business-use/


     

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